Recently, I attended Total Solutions Plus, the annual conference held by the National Contractors Association (NTCA),Ceramic Tile Distributors Association(CTDA) and theTile Council of North America(TCNA), which was held in Rancho Mirage, CA -- just outside of Palm Springs. Although I have been writing about the use of tile in design for more than a decade, my new role as editor ofTILE Magazine, a sister publication ofContemporary Stone & Tile Design, has introduced me to the entire tile world -- including installers, distributors and manufacturers as well as association directors.notes-from-the-field

Total Solutions Plus provided a great opportunity for me to meet many industry professionals, and I quickly observed how dedicated they are to honing their skills and improving upon industry standards.

The conference included an extensive educational program. The seminars, which were given by leaders in the tile industry, covered everything from how to prevent grout residue to developments in large-format thin tile to the importance of being a Five Star Contractor -- a program developed by the NTCA. The reoccurring message that I took away from each of the presentations I attended was that tile is continuing to grow in popularity, and in part, it is because of the dedication manufacturers have to technology and many installers have to educating themselves on the latest industry standards so that they can provide quality installations -- and also to the industry leaders and associations that are working tirelessly to develop new industry standards.

With the advancements in technology, tile collections have not only become more visually appealing but also more durable -- making them suitable for pretty much any application. It is incredible to me how authentic the appearance of wood- and stone-look tiles have become, and the range of sizes that are now offered.  There are a handful of manufacturers that are even making porcelain in slab format.

And because of all these developments, it is important that tile installers are educated so that they perform quality installations.  I heard over and over again during the educational seminars how the tile design is only as good as the installation.  This is one of the reasons the NTCA developed its Five Star Contractor program.  If architects and designers use certified installers, they can guarantee quality work to their clients.

During my attendance at Total Solutions Plus, I witnessed that those in the industry stand by their tile products and care about the growth of the industry.  They all want to produce high-quality products that can stand the test of time, and have the standards and education in place to ensure that the installation will as well.